When my mother flew
across the Atlantic, in autumn 1979,
the flight attendant served her a croissant
like two conch shells
on the breakfast tray.
When my mother, pointing, asked,
what is it?
the word, croissant—
which she could not have spelled—
in her lexicon. She left the bread uneaten.
Alarmed by its flaking texture,
she thought it had come from the sea.
Because she’d leapt in cotton sari
on the left side of the road to
catch moving busses
on Kerala hills, had
ridden rickshaws, paid a fist
of rupees to a stubbled haggling driver
who spat tobacco at her Bata shoes,
driving down the 404 felt like adjusting
an overhead transparency,
slightly left and slightly right,
I can’t speak the language
that she dreams in.
we pass statues of decorated
elephants, in her eyes that recognition
like opening a box of winter clothes
from last year,
that touch of joy—
oh, I remember you.